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2015 BC Technology Innovation Award Winners!

Left of the Dot Wins BC Tech Award for Community Engagement

2015 Technology Impact Awards (TIAs) celebrate BC’s best companies, people, and innovations
MAPLE RIDGE, BC, CANADA – June 05, 2015 – Left of the Dot Media Inc. (LOTD) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded the 2015 Technology Impact Award (TIA) from the BC Technology Industry Association. The award is given annually to a BC company who most demonstrates, “through the engagement of their employees and as part of their culture, the practice of corporate social responsibility programs or initiatives that have a direct impact on the community in which they live, work, and play.”
Founded in 2010, Left of the Dot lives, works, and plays in Vancouver’s suburb of Maple Ridge, BC. With 24 full-time staff in Maple Ridge and another 60+ in two development offices in Bangladesh, the company builds and manages web and mobile brands based on high-value domain names. The company’s most recent project, YO.com, is focussed on connecting the next billion unconnected users with a free mobile app that lets people share and connect without the Internet.
“Left of the Dot is deliberately located in Maple Ridge rather than downtown Vancouver because we want our team to be a part of the community,” said Chris Jensen, Co-Founder and CEO. “Living and working locally allows the team to attend school events, manage day care responsibilities, and do the little things that make not just our employees’ lives a little better, but also make a meaningful impact on the world around us.”
Said Jensen’s co-founder John Lyotier, who accepted the award on behalf of company, “When Chris and I started 5 years ago, we established the idea of ‘Community’ as one of our core tenets that was going to guide a lot of our business decisions. I am proud of our team and what this recognition means, and I thank the BCTIA for recognizing the contribution that every Lefty has made in his or her community.”
At its core, the Community Engagement program for Left of the Dot believes that every employee defines the word ‘Community’ a little bit differently, and as such each employee is given an unlimited number of paid Community Days to volunteer and make a difference with that which is important to them, whether this is volunteering at a child’s school, coaching youth sports, being a Big Brother, or other social and civic initiatives. The end result is a 100% participation rate and a much more engaged and motivated team.
Continued Lyotier, “I think what may have made us unique in the judges’ eyes is that we are also not just defining community as being involved in Maple Ridge (or Langley, Coquitlam, Burnaby, or Vancouver… or wherever our Lefties might live), but through our new YO! brand, they saw that we are impacting the global community while connecting those who cannot afford to connect. YO! is empowering people around the world—from BC to Bangladesh—and improving lives in the process. How cool is that!”
About Left of the Dot Media Inc.
Established in 2010, Left of the Dot builds and incubates web and mobile properties, including Christmas.com, RentByOwner.com, Cruiseships.com, and countless others. The company’s latest project is YO.com. YO! is a free mobile app and patent-pending communication protocol that empowers users to share and connect hyperlocally without the Internet. For more information about the company, visit www.LeftOfTheDot.com
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Media Contact
Sarah Livsey
Marketing Communications Manager
Phone: 604-477-5686
Email: sarah@leftofthedot.com


Our 2014 Year in Review – Community Days

As you may have read in our post last year, Reflections of 2013 – A look back at the Left of the Dot ‘Community’, we all share the belief that community is important. It is one of the reasons we love working in Maple Ridge; we are able to live and work in our community and not waste countless hours of our life commuting to downtown Vancouver. This translates to a better work-life balance and gives us the opportunity and time to give back.
We all define “Community” in different ways and Left of the Dot honours these beliefs. Some of us with families enjoy the opportunity to volunteer at our kids’ school, others volunteer and give back with their photography skills, and others take time to step up as civic leaders. The list is open and is constantly changing as all Lefties volunteer their time to improve the community around them.
Here is a brief glimpse into some of the great things that we got up to in 2014:
Meadow Montessori – Joe, Alan, and John volunteered their time to build the school a new website. The response from the School Administrator definitely made their day, "... it’s freaking amazing, I have tears! It’s perfect." - Ms. Kristine Lande

Meadow Montessori Website

Donating Blood – In February, on Valentine’s Day, Sarah and Brandon gave the gift of life by donating blood at one of the local rotating clinics.

Sarah

Brandon4

Pull for Parkinson’s – John and Mike spent the day volunteering at an ultimate Frisbee tournament open to high school teams which was created as a means of raising money for Parkinson’s disease.

Pull for Parkinsons

Yuen’s Tournament of Fun – Chris helped to organize and coordinate a tournament in May and November for 120 students from 3 schools to get together for a day to show their skills in board breaking, sparring, patterns and weapons. The students range from Gold Belt to Black Belt and age 4 to Adult. The idea is to create a fun and safe atmosphere so that everyone has a good time and the parents can see their child perform in front of an audience. It’s a great learning and character building experience and has grown over the past 4 years from 50 students to the current numbers.
yuens 4
Tough Mudder - Our entire office started training in January with our twice-weekly, morning boot camps. We had 100% commitment from the staff to do the Tough Mudder challenge: no one was being left behind. Annette, our bootcamp trainer, made sure that we—those who make a living sitting in front of a computer screen all day—were ready for every obstacle that we encountered. From crawling around in the mud to pulling ourselves up and over walls, we were physically and emotionally ready. The event pushed the team to its physical limits, but I can proudly say that all 10 of us completed every obstacle and all 19.2 km. Yes, some of us were hobbled by the end. But we made it and we were smiling throughout. Thanks Annette and Fitness Unlimited for the training. You helped us change our company and the lives of those we care about.

Tough Mudder

BCTIA Tech Report Card Unveiling – John represented the Invest North Fraser region at the BC Technology Industry Association event.

John - Oct. 31 2014

Christmas Hampers – All members of our staff adopted 2 families over the Christmas season. Through generous donations by employees and Left of the Dot, we were able to provide both families with gifts to enjoy over the holiday season.

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image (3)

Maple Ridge Economic Advisory Committee – John volunteers 5-10 hours per month through meetings and advising as a member-at-large for our city.
Clothing Donation – Diana was able to help out a local high school by coordinating with the Youth Worker and donating some much needed boys clothing for those who are in need.
Invest North Fraser – John was invited to be a part of Invest North Fraser’s table at the BCTIA Technology Impact Awards gala dinner. He was able to connect with Tomorrow’s Tech Titans and offer some advice/suggestions in a mentorship role.
We are proud of our Lefties involvement in their communities and can't wait to see how they contribute and give back in 2015.


How we introduced YO! to Silicon Valley and lived to tell the story

NOTE: This is a cross post from Yo.com (October 4, 2014) . We’re sharing our story as it happens. Join us at:  http://www.yo.com/#!/our-story
**********************

YO! in Silicon Valley.

So… there is no turning back now.
I am writing this entry on a flight home from San Francisco to Vancouver, and I am doing so with mixed emotion. Normally, when people use that phrase it references that strange hybrid  feeling where joy and sadness comingle, but not this time. This time, what I am feeling is a strange blend of terror and excitement.
You see, we are coming back from the heart of the technical jungle, Silicon Valley — where ideas come to life, fortunes are made, and where there are more ideas per capita than anywhere else on the planet [not a scientific statement]. And most importantly, we are coming home after showing off our baby for the first time at TC3, The Telecom Council of Silicon Valley’s annual event for innovation.

“This executive summit [is] the premier telecom innovation event of the year — which highlights the relationship between the companies building networks, with the companies inventing the next generation of technologies.”

Over the past 4 days, we probably gave more than 100 demonstrations of YO! to some of the smartest minds in telecom, trend spotters, venture capitalists, our Board, and other vendors from within the mobile arena. The response we had was overwhelmingly positive.
Yes, sometimes some of the mobile carriers were a little unsure of what to do with us. One even swore openly once we explained what we had already created and our vision for what we could do, saying that “Well the best thing for us is if we could just make you go away, but that is not going to happen… so let’s find the best way to work together and make this work together.”
The giant whooshing sound you heard on Wednesday morning was the collective sigh of relief as Chris, Saju, and myself exhaled for the first time in six months.
You never know how people are going to react in situations like this. Were they going to say, “Oh yeah that… We’ve seen that before.” Or perhaps, “Mildly interesting, but we don’t see the need, we don’t have the pain, and the opportunity that you are pursuing is not really there.” Or worst of all, getting the dreaded  “Meh.”
We got none of that. The pain that we thought we had identified is real. Telecom carriers are looking at innovative ways to offload data. They are looking for value added services that they could bring to the market and help them become more than just a “dumb pipe” … These were their words, not ours.
The people we spoke to, especially the carriers involved in emerging or developing markets – Telefonica, SMART Communications, China Mobile, Saudi Telecom, etc. – they understood the pain point that YO! can solve.
Their customers are buying smart phones by the millions, often for the very first time, yet these same customers will not be using data plans. They simply cannot afford to. Data is too expensive and bandwidth is too precious. Oh… and those that are sharing and connecting are going to crash the global networks in a ‘data tsunami’ before the decade is up.
That is, of course, unless innovations come about that change things. Innovations like YO!
When we started journaling this effort 6+ months ago, we spoke about wanting to tell all and share this journey. And in so doing, we wanted to share both the good and the bad while giving those that follow after us a bit of encouragement to step into the world of entrepreneurship and into the unknown. In the spirit of this, here are some random learnings, each of which probably deserves its own post, but given time constraints, this probably won’t happen.

Stand out from the Crowd

Full credit  goes to the team for this one. When we first committed to going to TC3 and registered for a demonstration table, we were given strict rules to follow, including:

“Your display must fit onto the 36” circular cocktail table and cannot be taller than 24”.

As soon as I shared this information with the team, Joe stated matter of fact as though it was not up for debate, “Well it is simple then. You will be the display.”
And so we were, we had bright green golf shirts that while still classy, could be seen from across the conference hall. People noticed us, especially in a world of dark suit jackets.
And the same was true with the display itself. Lighting is key in tradeshows as it attracts the eye. Our team hand-crafted a glowing, circular display that caught everyone’s attention and disrupted the status quo. On top of this, we had the Yo.com website homepage on loop via a front-facing flat screen display. Oh yeah… we also had YO! on full display running on a few Android devices plus our personal devices (the ones used were $100 smart phones from India.) All these phones were meshed together via an off-the-shelf ASUS WiFi router that was not connected to the Internet.

Have Something People Want

After drawing people to us, we had to have a story to tell. We had to listen to understand the visitor’s pain and then explain not only how we solved that pain, but how we were different. While the sales and marketing experts say that the product itself is merely a prop to the story you weave, I have to say that without actually having a product to demonstrate, people wouldn’t believe what we were saying.

“Yes… we are letting people share and connect without the internet.”
“No… we don’t require a server or any special router or hardware.”
“Yes… it is free for users.”
“No… We are not passing it through the Internet.”
“Yes… that file was just sent in a few seconds.”
“No… you cannot have it yet. Unfortunately, we are still in a private beta while we test the application in different environments around the world.”

Have Something People Need

Wants and needs are two different things.  And while YO! addresses a real need for consumers and for carriers, the need that I am referring to was the best tradeshow giveaway  by far. We were offering up free pre-charged solar power packs to anyone who saw the demonstration of YO!
These chargers were great. Each was pre-charged with enough juice to recharge two devices. And as each day wore on, people’s phones were drained by mid-afternoon.  Each came equipped with an Android and Apple adaptors so we were not discriminating. Oh… and they had a solar panel, so they could be charged via USB or simply by clipping onto a backpack and sitting the charger in the sun for a short time.
Total cost per unit was less than $10 when purchased wholesale.
While a great giveaway for a telecom conference, it also helped us tell the story that YO! is not being developed like so many innovations today for the developed world where power is plentiful. There are parts of Bangladesh, South America, Africa and around the world where reliable power is a problem. Technology can help them connect and share. The theme of empowerment runs true.

Make it Personal

Yes, each demonstration of YO! attempted to personalize it to the needs of the audience, and thus become more relevant. But what people wanted to hear was a story – a personal story.  I think that this was because many at the event (and throughout North America) had a hard time understanding that data is not unlimited and sharing is not always easy. What made people understand was relaying a story about our development team in Bangladesh, and in particular telling them this:

“After building web brands for the past 4.5 years, we developed a certain daily development rhythm. This included frequent Skype calls between Canada and Bangladesh. What we did not realize, however, is that if we were having these calls during the Bangladeshi day (our night), the team would need to stop working, sharing, and communicating internally. The bandwidth was too precious. So to compensate, they built YO!, allowing them to message inter office AND keep connected with us back here in Canada.”

In short, our team in Bangladesh had a pain that was not felt by our team in Canada. It was personal.
There were a few glitches here and there in our demonstration of course. Those things always happen. But these are all reasons why we are still in private beta… testing and refining to make sure we get a minimum viable product that can now live up to very lofty expectations.
It is always hard to know where these things will go. But I am very proud of the team for getting it this far. The next few months (and years) are going to be one hell of a ride.
What do you think? Have any launch horror stories to share?


Tough Mudder Anticipation: Success comes from repetition and doing the little things right

Tough Mudder Anticipation: Success comes from repetition and doing the little things right


[Editor’s Note:  We rocked that course!]
I wanted to declare this now for all to see: I am proud of our team. Tomorrow, we have our entire office from Maple Ridge taking part in the gruelling Tough Mudder event in Whistler BC. No one has or will be left behind.
For those of you who are not familiar with these events: this is 18-20km of running up and down the Whistler Olympic park. Rocky, forested terrain that more suitable to the local Grizzly bear than it is for the 10 of us who sit working in front of our computers all day. Oh… and to make things more ‘fun’ … there are 19 obstacles along the way to break up the monotony of our Sunday stroll. Obstacles that have joyful names like “Arctic Enema”, “Balls to the Wall”, and “Electroshock Therapy”. As I said… fun.
We’ve trained as a group for this since January. Early morning bootcamps of high intensity training along with an overall healthier living (yes… we have had less Beer O’clocks than in the past, but they are still around… we are not savages!) And regardless as to how we do tomorrow, we will have done it together.
We have blogged in the past about our company values and the PowerPoint slide that showed that which is important to us. One of the images on the slide is a small graphic showing the 98lb weekling and George Atlas advertisement that used to appear on the cover of comic books during our youth. The ad copy (which is brilliantly written) declares, “You too can look like this in just 15 minutes a day!”
We show this image as it represents the value of perseverance and repetition and about doing the little things right. Yes, we can in fact look like that if we set our minds to it. Just as we can build, launch and grow successful internet brands in any industry. It is just a question of when, not if if you persevere.
So here’s to the team. Congrats on your perseverance and willingness to go outside of your boundaries, to push past that mythical barrier of “there is no way” and find yourself smack dab in the middle of “You know, maybe we can.”  And to those who doubt, we will see you at the finish line.

Success comes with perseverance and repetition
Success comes with perseverance and repetition

 


Left of the Dot Media, Company culture, fun at work

4 Years Later And We're Still Having Fun!

4 Years Later And We're Still Having Fun!


Left of the Dot Media, Company culture, fun at work

Looking back on the Last 4 Years at Left of the Dot!

It is hard to believe, but it was 4 years ago this morning that I sat next to Chris listening to him tell Rick Latona over the phone that we we were seeking a “$100k investment on a valuation of $500,000 for our new business.” We have had ups and downs along the way, a few pivots and business model revisions, but nothing was as momentous as that first phone call.
Here is why:
Chris and I were sitting having breakfast one Friday morning with another friend and the conversation turned to the big T.R.A.F.F.I.C. domaining show that was coming to Vancouver the following week. I had just finished telling Chris that the company I was then with was going to do a round of layoffs and I would either be the one being laid off or I would be laying off a large percentage of my team — neither a very good option in my opinion. We had often talked about running our own company together “to do things right” so we decided sort of spur-of-the-moment, might have been the espresso talking … “Hey we should pitch something at the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Test Track on Monday and see if we could land a domain name to work on?”
The Test Track event was sort of a Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank sort of pressure cooker that the domain industry was putting on whereby eager entrepreneurs pitched to four successful and wealthy Domainers about their latest and greatest business idea.  For us, however, the only idea that we had was that “We should start a company” and “we need a great domain name to start with”.  Yes, we had tossed around the sub-domain ecosystem angle for a few years previously thinking that there was gold in them thar’ hills if we could figure it out (and sub-domains were really ranking well organically).  But unlike most businesses, we didn’t have a business plan, a cap table … heck we didn’t even have a company name.  Then Chris made the phone call:
[abbreviated and not to be taken as real quoted dialog]

Chris:  “Hi Rick  … Chris Jensen here. John Lyotier and I want to pitch at Test Track. Can we?”
Rick:  “Sure, how much are you looking to raise?”
Chris:  “Nothing. We are not raising any money. We just need a good domain to work with for our new stealth business idea.”
Rick:  “We are not accepting companies like that. You need to be raising money.”
Chris:  “In that case, did I forget to mention that we are seeking a $100,000 angel investment for 20% of the company?”
Rick:  “Welcome aboard. You pitch on Monday.”

I was dumbfounded. A few minutes before we had no company idea and I was on the verge of being unemployed. Now we were raising $100k on a half million dollar valuation. If ever there was an apropos time for the WTF acronym this was it. What had we got ourselves into?
The next 72 hours were a bit of a whirlwind. I took the lay off from my job that afternoon and ensured that I was contractually free and clear with no Intellectual Property issues to handcuff future opportunities. We spoke for another hour or so and sketched out the workings of the model that we had discussed off and on for the previous 3+ years. Then we divided and conquered a 10-slide PowerPoint deck: Chris took 5 slides to explain the financial and operational side of the business, I took 5 slides for the market opportunity and product side.
We met again for the first time late on the Sunday night to combine the slides into one deck, then a moment of panic set in …
“Wait. Are we able to use a PowerPoint for our pitch? How long of a presentation slot do we have? What time are we presenting? What is the company going to be called?”
We had way too many questions and no time for answers.

  • Let’s assume that we can use a PowerPoint. We will put the presentation onto a memory stick, but order about 10 printed copies from Kinkos “just in case”. DONE!
  • No idea how long we have. Let’s just speak passionately, honestly, and eloquently about that which we knew — We knew there was a market opportunity. We knew Domainers were starting to feel a pain. We knew we wanted a shot to figure it out. DONE!
  • We pitch tomorrow just after lunch. Oh F^@K… that is not much time. But nothing we can do about it now. DONE!
  • Name? Let’s call it “Left of the Dot” … I had grabbed the domain a short time before as I thought it would be good for a personal blog. DONE! A few business cards were added to the print order from Kinkos and a 1-page “Coming soon. We are in stealth mode” website was sprung up.

The morning had us pick up half of the business cards (the second half were still being printed), the printed slide deck, and we registered for the conference. It was a bit of a reunion the first few hours as we had great relationships with many in the Domaining community from our days at Reinvent and HitFarm. Then we pitched …
I would like to say it was a great presentation, but I really don’t remember it. It was a bit of a blur. What I do remember is that we had struck a nerve with the panellists and by the end of our pitch, we had 3 out of the 4 ‘Dragons’ wanting to explore an investment. And by the end of the night, we had someone else also offer to invest at the valuation that Chris had pulled out of nowhere.
Fast forward to today … we are now on the cusp of our 4th birthday. We now have a team of approximately 40 people between our offices here in Maple Ridge and abroad in Bangladesh. We have had our share of ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures. We couldn’t have got to where we are today without the support of our investors, Directors, friends, family, and team mates (3-2-1… Lefties!). But rarely do we take the time to look backwards and remember how it all started…
Four years ago we were just two guys with a willingness to fail but a passion to succeed. The only difference today is that there are now forty of us. We haven’t changed a bit.

Pitching at TRAFFIC Vancouver (Photo Credit: Ron Jackson DNjounal.com)
Pitching at TRAFFIC Vancouver (Photo Credit: Ron Jackson DNJounal.com)

Editor’s note.  OK… maybe we have a lot more grey hair (or less of it), we would much rather wear shorts and flip-flops, and Chris only looks like a startled llama on a rare occasion — but the passion is still there.


"Show Us Something Incredible", another one of our company values

"Show Us Something Incredible", another one of our company core values.


Guided by our 10 Core Values

Bob: “Well, what are you waiting for?”
Rusty: “I don’t know. Something amazing, I guess.”
—Bob Parr and Rusty, Pixar’s THE INCREDIBLES
With every new hire, either at our HQ or at our overseas development office, we go through a PowerPoint deck highlighting our company core values. This is a visual representation of that which we hold true, basically it is a whole bunch of small pictures smushed together, where each image represents something important.
In one corner of the page, we have a small 100×100 representation of a little-known character from Pixar’s movie, THE INCREDIBLES. That is the little boy named Rusty. Rumour has it that this is an inside joke inserted by the engineers and animators at Pixar as a tribute to their creative genius and director who always challenges his team to “Show him something incredible.”
At Left of the Dot, we want to see things that are incredible, things that are unexpected and exceed our expectations. And when you have high expectations (like Chris and I do), it is tough to surpass these expectations. But every now and then, we see something that stops us in our tracks.
A short time ago, our development lead messaged me with two documents and a few .apk files (Android apps). I asked what they were and the reply was, “Just something little the mobile team has been working on in their evenings and weekends.”  Peeling back the layers of what we were looking at… well let’s just say I felt like Rusty at the end of the movie…
Rusty from The Incredibles
 
However, it was not the proof of concept that they were working on that blew me away, it was the fact that the team had shown me something incredible.
In any business, as in life, ‘Incredible’ can be defined in many different ways. At first, I thought it was about seeing something that you hadn’t been before, or something that was such an action that you just sit there with your mouth agape. From sports, think Michael Jordan and a dunk from the free throw line, Tiger Woods at the NEC nailing an iron in the near dark, or Alexander Ovechkin scoring while laying flat on his back on the ice. All could be considered incredible.
Sometimes incredible need not be anything grand. Sometimes you may find that the simplest customer service interaction, whereby you show compassion and care to exceed a customer’s expectations can also be incredible. Certain poetry can be incredible [code is poetry]. I remember watching Pulp Fiction many years ago in the theatre and realizing that what I was watching then and there was something I hadn’t seen before. The opening monologue of Episode 01 of The Newsroom whereby you marvel at the writing of Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniel’s performance. Incredible.
So what defines Incredible?  I propose that Incredible is defined more by passion and commitment than it is by action. It is defined by a willingness to try something new (and risk failure), more so than the results themselves. So to me, it wasn’t that our team built something cool. To me, what was incredible was the initiative and commitment made by the four developers in giving up their evenings and weekends to try something new. No one asked them to stay late and do what they did (other than them understanding our company’s values). They just did it. They took a risk. The results were incredible.
I believe that you can’t teach someone to be incredible. You can’t coach incredible. Yet everyone has it in them to be incredible.
So what is it that they created?  Stay tuned… we should be announcing it shortly.


Reflections of 2013 - A look back at the Left of the Dot 'Community'

Reflections of 2013 - A look back at the Left of the Dot 'Community'


Impacting The Community We Live In!

When Left of the Dot was first created back in 2010, Chris and myself sat down and spoke about what was truly important to us. This conversation has led us to create a set of company values that we live every day, and thus, baked into the company’s very DNA is the value of COMMUNITY. In fact, it is even incorporated into the company’s Mission Statement:

At Left of the Dot, we’re turning million dollar domain names into multi-million dollar businesses by being the best at acquiring and monetizing traffic that takes advantage of market inefficiencies. This will allow us to capitalize on the value of these businesses and better our communities.

With every new hire, we enforce the importance of our company values and the role that each Leftie can play within his or her community
So, what is ‘COMMUNITY’? We empower everyone to define their Community as they see fit. It is helping out at a child’s school; it is standing up and being a civic leader; it is becoming an expert in your field and contributing knowledge at conferences, meetups, events, and even as a mentor to those up-and-coming in the field. It is volunteering your time, even when (especially when) you are busy. It is supporting the local economy and becoming active participants in it, not just passive observers. It is volunteering at Little League, it is captaining your beer league sports team, and it is offering encouragement where encouragement is needed. It is showing up at community events: farmers markets, local parades, and town-hall meetings. It is setting up your company offices in the suburbs of Maple Ridge where people live, rather than in the city of Vancouver, where people simply commute to. It is getting out to vote, or exercising your right not to vote as long as you have participated in the democratic process and learned the issues. It is about taking pride and making a difference to make your world a better place. It is about sharing your time and talents with others in the hope that those gifts can make the community better.
Every Leftie is offered and encouraged to take ‘Community Days’ throughout the year. Thus, rather than coming in to work in an afternoon or morning, they are out bettering their Community. The one caveat that we have is that we want to know about it. The equivalent of “Facebook Official”… if there are no pictures, it didn’t happen.
Going forward, we will be sharing these in a special ‘COMMUNITY’ category of this blog. In reflecting back on 2013, here are a few things we did to improve our Community.
 
Fostered Cats – The elderly owner of these cats was paying $1000+ per month to have these cats cared for. We adopted them for approximately 2 months while she was in a long-term care facility. It took a while for them to get used to us, but soon they adopted us.

Fostered Office Cats
Meet Dennis and Tigger, our Fostered Office Cats

 
Vibrant Downtown Task Force – John was asked to chair the Maple Ridge Vibrant Down Town Task Force, helping these other community leaders make recommendations for improving the vibrancy of the down town region.
The Vibrant Downtown Task Force on a walk about through Maple Ridge
The Vibrant Downtown Task Force on a walk about through Maple Ridge

 
Help Portrait 2013 – Help-Portrait is a movement of photographers who are using their time, equipment and expertise to give back to those who are less fortunate. The goal is simple; find someone in need, take their portrait, print their portrait and deliver them.
Alan taking pictures as part of Help Portrait 2013
Alan taking pictures as part of Help Portrait 2013

 
Giving Blood – Sarah inspired us all with this selfless photo of her giving blood. A blood drive is being organized for early this year for the rest of us.
giving blood
Sarah giving “The Gift of Life” just before Christmas

 
Shopping Locally – OK, I could have chosen the local grocer or deli, or perhaps pictures of the farmer’s market, but we didn’t have any pictures of that. We did, however, snap this photo of our selection for Beer O’clock purchased from Firefly Fine Wines and Spirits
Shopping Locally
Shopping Locally at Firefly Wines & Spirits

 
Miracle Treat Day and Camp Day – Getting involved in one’s community does not have to be about self sacrifice. Sometimes, it is a regular activity in support of someone else’s good cause.
Sometimes helping can taste good too.

 
 
Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner – Yes, we are a high-tech company with customers who are not local, but that doesn’t been we can’t network with local businesses and share in the spirit of the community. This year, we were also nominated by an unknown person(s) for the “Most Innovative Company”.
Commuity Awards
Nominated for Business Excellence Awards

 
Bangladesh Office Visit 2013 – Left of the Dot opened a development office in Bangladesh shortly after we started. In April, a few of us were privileged to visit our team overseas (the entire visit deserves its own post). For those who went, the experience changed us both corporately and personally. Our COMMUNITY extends not just to Maple Ridge, but also to Khulna, Bangladesh. Here is a picture of us doing our 3-2-1 Lefties! cheer (which we do daily to end our huddles). We are very cognizant about not imposing Western values and norms on our team in Bangladesh. However, with all new employees there, we go over our company values, and the value of COMMUNITY knows no boundaries.
Making a difference at home and abroad
Making a difference at home and abroad

 
Thanks to the entire Left of the Dot team for working to better our community.  You make us proud.  Stay tuned for regular posts from our team members as they contribute to the community throughout 2014.


Bing advertising

PPC Double Serving with Bing

PPC Double Serving with Bing

Bing advertising

Are Top Ad Spots Being Served Up Twice?

Just the other day, I read an interesting article from Ginny Marvin via PPC double serving in Search Engine Land. However, I just noticed something with our PPC campaign on Bing (for our RentalHomes.com brand) that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, so I thought I would share. It appears that Bing is either testing or has made a switch that if your ad is appearing in either the first or second ad slot, you are also served up at the bottom of the page. In essence, they are double-serving your ad to the web searcher.
From a monetization perspective, it makes sense for Bing. As an advertiser in positions #1 or #2, we’re paying more for a click than the traditional person who is appearing on the right side or at the bottom. My assumption is that whether a visitor clicks on the top or the bottom ad, we are paying as though we are in position #1. The advertisers who are bidding to the bottom are also less relevant to the searcher (more often than not), so a typical searcher may even deem the results to be more relevant to their needs, so Bing wins on all accounts
It is always interesting to see how the search networks are displaying your advertising and see their motivations.
In case Bing changes things, here is a screen grab.

bing-rent-a-house-in-turkey


Failure is an option when building out brands and businesses.

I was asked the other day what it was like to start a company when you know that the odds of success are so stacked against you (I guess the questioner thought I had some good advice seeing as how we launch several businesses per year, the big one this year being RentalHomes.com). I answered as best I could in trying to paraphrase Seth Godin in Poke the Box, and said ... "Well first you have to be willing to fail. And once you are willing to fail, you have to be willing to jump into the abyss."
Some time last year, when the company was at one of those inflexion points, I played the video of Jeb Corliss jumping off the cliff in one of his flying wing suits for the team. Yes, sometimes that is what entrepreneurship feels like. A count down, then you sail into the abyss. Some moments of terror, some moments of exhileration, and some moments of floating peacefully after you have achieved something spectacular. If you haven't seen it, here is the video:

 
As I said, sometimes it is terrifying.
 
At Left of the Dot, we have several core values that are represented by imagery and are shared and revisited frequently. We walk every new hire through these core values, spending the largest part of our entire on-boarding process on this one set of images. Each image represents a value we hold true: from emphasizing the value of Community, to focussing on the routine and rhythm of doing the little things right. This slide and images have remained constant from day one... Well, until this week.
You see, we added a new core value this week. At Left of the Dot, failure is now an option (as illustrated by the Twitter community's Fail Whale). In fact, we fail every day. Often. Sometimes half a dozen times by lunch. But without failure, we also can't taste success. You have to start, you have to try new things, you have to be willing to jump into the abyss.
 

Left of the Dot Core Values
Failure is now an option.


What is the impact of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) on domain names?

Earlier today WikiLeaks published the draft text from a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). While I am sure there will be (or maybe naively I hope there will be) dialogue and discussion about what this agreement means for business and consumers alike, I thought it worthwhile to broadcast a few relevant paragraphs about what this document is saying about Domain Names (from pages 20 and 21 of the PDF).

Article QQ.C.12: {Domain Names on the Internet}

1.56 In order to address the problem of trademark [VN/MX propose: geographical indication and trade name] cyber-piracy, each Party shall adopt or maintain a system for the management of its country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) that provides:
(a) an appropriate procedure for the settlement of disputes, based on, or modelled along the same lines as, the principles established in the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, or that is: (i) designed to resolve disputes expeditiously and at low cost, (ii) fair and equitable, (iii) not overly burdensome, and (iv) does not preclude resort to court litigation;
(b) online public access to a reliable and accurate database of contact information concerning domain-name registrants57; in accordance with each Party's laws regarding protection of privacy58 and personal data. 59
 
2. [PE/SG/CL/AU/NZ/MY/BN/CA oppose; US/VN/JP/MX propose: Each party shall provide [VN: oppose adequate and effective] [VN propose: appropriate] remedies against the registration trafficking60, or use in any ccTLD, with a bad faith intent to profit, of a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark [VN/MX propose: , geographical indication or trade name].]
55 Negotiators' Note: AU supports this article ad referendum.
56 Negotiators' Note: AU supports this paragraph ad referendum.
57 Negotiators' Note: Brunei can accept this provision pending completion of its database.
58 Negotiators' Note: US seeks further clarification on the scope of application of privacy data.
59 Negotiators' Note: AU/CL/MY/NZ/US/SG/JP support contingent on understanding that TPP will include a general provision related to privacy/disclosure of information; issues.
60 Negotiators' Note: JP seeks clarification as to whether “registration” is deemed to be synonymous with “acquiring the right to use” and reserves its position pending clarification of the term “trafficking”.

While there are much smarter minds than mine who can can read between the lines of what is being proposed (hat tip to Paul Keating and Ari Goldberger), I do find it interesting that global bodies are meeting behind closed doors to codify domain rules that would seem to take precedence over the established rules of ICANN. Best I can tell, the TPP would limit the sovereignty that each country has on their ccTLD (.ca, .uk, .se, .de…etc). It is also interesting to see what would come from the equirements for privacy of those rules governing privacy for domain name registrants.